Lumber companies add security measures

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Lumber companies are adding security measures after a spate of suspicious fires destroyed three lumberyards within the last week.

The latest blaze leveled the Schutte Lumber Co. in midtown Kansas City early Sunday, and investigators said arson is suspected. Firefighters confirmed arson was the cause of two other fires on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 at lumberyards in Kearney and Mosby, about 25 miles north of Kansas City. Damage to those lumberyards, which are owned by the same family, is estimated at $2 million.

"The latest fire really caught us off guard," said John Dowd, manager of Beverly Lumber in north Kansas City. "Now we don't know what to think."

Dowd said the company has consulted with police on how to secure the lumber yard, but he declined to give specifics on the measures the company has taken.

Albert Tamm Lumber Co., located east of downtown Kansas City, has added overnight security and is taking some equipment and materials to off-site locations as a precaution, employee Tom Perry said.

"Basically, it's so all your eggs aren't in one basket," he said.

Schutte operations manager Matt Brown said employees were asked to watch for anything suspicious after the two fires last week in Clay County.

"But there are so many ways to gain entrance to a place like this because it's so open," Brown said.

"It makes you wonder if you're vulnerable," said Gary Augustin, manager of United Building Center in south Kansas City. "Fires haven't been a concern before."

Augustin said the company has a security fence with razor wire around the property as a deterrent.

84 Lumber Co., also in south Kansas City, requires all people in the lumber yard to be accompanied by an employee. Although that security measure was in place before the fires, co-manager David Lillis said the company is being more watchful.

"We're keeping an extra eye out for people who wander on the yard," he said. "We are making sure that our yard is locked down."

The Kansas City Fire Department has requested help on the investigation from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Police Department's bomb and arson squad.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: